Those “Cute” Novels…


It’s no secret, I love a good romance novel, and I’ve read some really sweet/funny/cring-y ones lately… let’s take a look!

–Marissa

The Arrangement by Sarah Dunn was not what I expected – but in a good way. Lucy and Owen are a typical married couple, living in the ‘burbs and trying the best they can to raise their autistic son. When they hear of another couple that decided to try an “open marriage”, they give it a go with hilarious, heartfelt, and heartbreaking results. This sounds like it would be a serious, emotionally-charged novel (and at times it can be), but it’s much more lighthearted, warm and funny than I expected. I really enjoyed this novel from Dunn, who, by the way, created the new TV series “American Housewife”.

We Were On a Break by Lindsey Kelk made me literally laugh out loud many, many times. πŸ™‚ Adam and Liv are returning to England after a lovely holiday in Mexico, except for one thing… Liv was expecting a proposal, and didn’t get one. Through a series of miscommunications, they end up “on a break”… so will they or won’t they reconcile? So, so, so funny and so, so English and just the right book at the right time for me. πŸ™‚

Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley was just such a sweet romance… and not just because it takes place in a library. πŸ˜‰ Jubilee Jenkins is literally allergic to other people, but when her mother dies and she has to financially support herself, she ventures into the world… and into the library, and into the path of a guy named Eric. This is just a warm, affectionate, not-cloying romance novel with a lot of heart – I loved it!

I also read Seven Minutes in Heaven by Eloisa James, who is ALWAYS a home run of a Regency romance, andΒ The Undateable by Sarah Title… which of course featured a frumpy librarian who gets the guy in the end. πŸ˜‰ Plus, I listened to the latest Stephanie Plum novel, Turbo Twenty-Three by Janet Evanovich – predictable and fun. πŸ™‚

Non-Fiction-y Goodness


True, true… I tend to be an “all fiction, all the time” kind of girl, but in the last few years, I’ve tried to branch out into more nonfiction… and here’s what’s crossed my path lately…

–Marissa

Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things by Amy Dickinson is just such a sweet, gentle, lovely memoir that spoke to me in so many ways. Amy – of “Ask Amy” fame – moves home to her tiny town in New York state to be near her aging mother, and in the course of taking care of her and settling into her small-town life, falls head over heels in love with Bruno, whom she marries and begins a blended family with. Her writing is so accessible and warm, and I was rooting for her and Bruno (whose relationship has echoed my own of late), while also feeling the pain and sadness of her mother’s decline. Recommended!

My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul rang ALL my bells. Bob, of course, is Paul’s “Book of Books” – her list of all the books she’s read since high school, dutifully recorded in the same notebook since then. She details her travels, her relationships, and her growing up through the lens of books… and some of the passages so echoed my own feelings about books, I keep writing them down for myself to keep. I have the same visceral feeling about books that Paul does – I can remember places and circumstances based on the book I was reading at the time (I know what I was reading the day Mum died, I know where I was when I finished The Other Boleyn Girl for the first time, etc…), just as Paul does. If you are a book lover, this memoir is not to be missed.

Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance was SO the right book at the right time for me. Smart, funny, horrifying, thought-provoking, and sharp, this is Vance’s view of growing up in Eastern Kentucky, and not only his own journey, but what life is like in that part of rural America, and how hard it is to break out of the “hillbilly” mold. I couldn’t stop talking about this book after I read it – it just made me THINK about so many things. Recommended!

I’ve also recently reread The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (I listen to her podcast each week, so a reread was in order!)… plus, a few other (fiction, of course!) titles… The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (zombie-novel-turned-movie)… Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo (another great entry in the Kate Burkholder series!)… This Is Our Story by Ashley Elston (great young adult suspense novel)… and The River At Night by Erica Ferencik (totally eh)…

Buzz-y Books


I know, I KNOW it’s been a while… but I swear I haven’t been neglecting my reading, just my reviewing! So, let’s talk about some of the buzz-y books I’ve been reading lately… you know, the ones that are getting big press or big reviews…

–Marissa

The Mothers by Brit Bennett was everywhere last fall, and with good reason. This novel is set in an African-American community in Southern California and features a sort of “Greek chorus” of church women who observe the relationships of Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey… and the love triangle that inevitably ensues. This is a beautifully written, character-driven novel about the choices we make… and the long-reaching consequences. I really enjoyed this one…

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel is a timely novel, and features a typical family raising their kids… until one of their children, five-year-old Claude, decides that when he grows up, he wants to be a girl. What follows is how the entire family navigates Claude’s transition, how to cope with things like schools and sleepovers, and what it means to be family. I got a big bogged down in parts – I think it could have used some editing – but overall, I really learned a lot from this novel.

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay is just that… a collection of fictional short stories in varying lengths about… difficult women. Old, young, thin, big, lesbian, straight… all women are represented in this collection of wide-ranging tales, from the funny to the tragic. Gay is just SUCH a master of prose and storytelling. It won’t be my last Gay reading…

The Dry by Jane Harper was one of *those* suspense novels, the one everyone was talking about. Set in Australia during a dry spell, a family is all dead, and no one knows for sure the whys or hows… and special agent Falk has been summoned to the funeral with a note that basically says… you liked, Luke lied, come to the funeral. This is fast-paced, sharp, and smart! Easily to devour!

The Wanderers by Meg Howrey is hard to categorize, but I LOVED it. Basically, what would it be like if The Martian (the book/movie) was reality, and we were ready to send a crew there in the near future? They would need to be chosen then prepare, right? This entire novel takes place BEFORE the trip to Mars, as the crew – and their families – prepare for their journey. This is just a well-written, alternating-points-of-view, character-driven novel about who we are, where we’re going, and what it means to those left behind. I so dug this.

I See You by Clare Mackintosh was her follow-up to the absolutely fantastic I Let You Go, and is another fast-paced, red herring, whodunit suspense novel about women who are being targeted in ads in a London newspaper. I liked the twists of I Let You Go better, but this was another smart, sharp, fast suspense novel. Recommended!

Those Weird Ones


You know, there are always those books that get big publicity up front for being groundbreaking or weird or whatever. I’ve read a couple of those lately, and here’s what I thought…

–Marissa

Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin sounded like it was right in my wheelhouse – a character-driven epistolary (in this case, told entirely in emails) novel about fraternal twins Harry and Matilda as they navigate aging parents, their careers, and their love lives. It… was not what I expected (and if you’re read it, let’s talk about that ending!), but it was a super fast, super engaging read that I couldn’t put down, so there’s that! Plus, the author is a photographer, so this story was originally told through Instagram. Cool, right?

The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy grabbed me from page one – and can we talk about that arresting COVER?! In the not too distant future, people can pay a “body” to be possessed by the spirit of their deceased love one to talk to, connect with, or come to terms with. But… what happens when the body starts to develop feelings for the visitor? The first half of the book got me, but it slowed considerably in the second half and I didn’t find it as satisfying as I did at the start. Still a super engaging premise and easy to read, just didn’t ring my bell as much as I expected at the outset…

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough has been getting MASSIVEΒ press, and has it’s own hashtag: #WTFthatending. A married man, his strange wife, and the woman who develops a relationship with both of them without telling the other – what could POSSIBLY go wrong?! This storytelling at times felt repetitive, but after reading the ending (nope, you’ll never guess it), it certainly made me think back over what I’d read. No spoilers, but if you like a fast, suspenseful read that you won’t see the twists coming, check this one out!

I also finished After the Flood by Alexis Hall (an eh MM romance, so not his best), as well as Flowers For Hitler by Ilse Horacek, a woman I am honored to know in real life, and to have tremendous respect and admiration for. What a life she has led…

A Mixed Bag…


…of reviews this time around, so let’s go!

–Marissa

The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel is just compulsively readable. Twenty-seven years ago, Christopher Knight walked into the Maine woods, and remained there – alone and with no human contact – until he was arrested for stealing from nearby cabins nearly three decades later. This nonfiction work (clocking in at barely 200 pages) is about his survival, the hunt to find him, and the aftermath of his arrest. So, SO interesting and thought provoking!

The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking just rang all my bells. πŸ™‚ This pocket non-fiction work is all about how Danes – the happiest people on earth – get happy and live well! I’m pretty “hygge” in a lot of things, and was delighted to read about how powerful hot drinks, candles, warm surroundings, friends and a cozy sweater can make for a happy person. πŸ™‚

The Duke by Kerrigan Byrne is the fourth novel in her Victorian Rebels series – and I’m such a fan of her novels! I love that her dashing heroes are often the flawed ones, that the women have spirit and drive, and that the writing is always sharp, funny and just enough sexy. Love her!

I also read Hotelles by Emma Mars – yeah, sure, erotic romance, but it felt in a lot of ways like it was trying entirely too hard to be high brow and shocking and thought provoking. Or maybe it’s just that it’s French. *small shrug* Probably won’t read the rest of the trilogy…

YA Novels


I love a good young adult novel, as y’all know, so here are the latest I’ve checked out…

–Marissa

Girls Like Me by Lola StVil was just….swoony and sweet and so easy to read. πŸ™‚ Written first in verse, then in text messages and chats, this novel’s style took a bit of getting used to, but then I devoured it in an evening. She’s the hilarious, overweight shy girl with the crush on the jock, and he’s… the perfect boy on the other side of the screen. Will they meet? Won’t they? Love, love, love. πŸ™‚

You in Five Acts by Una La Marche also took some getting used to. Each chapter is from a different character’s point of view, and you spent time trying to figure out who is the “you” they are referring to in their particular part of the story. Still, I got sucked into this Fame-for-the-new-generation story, and did NOT see the ending coming. Great for kids with a zen for theatre, dance, drama or a fresh and unique story.

Die For You by Amy Fellner Dominy... just didn’t blaze any new ground.Emma and Dillon are soooo in love in high school, but as she tries to pursue her dream in life, Dillon pulls her back. This felt like a totally recycled teenage abusive relationship story, with weird plot points kinda shoved in. (Now I’m showing my age… reminded me of the movie Fear with hunktastic Marky Mark. And not as compelling – Marky Mark or not. *grin*)

I also just finished listening to Sting by Sandra Brown – not young adult, but still a decent listen, but a bit slower than her last few novels, at least for me…

Read Harder Challenge : 2017

book-riot


So, I’ve long been a devotee of the “All the Books” podcast from BookRiot (Rebecca and Liberty’s book reviews are EVERYTHING), and when they mentioned the 2017 Read Harder challenge, I knew I had to check it out!

In short: do 24 reading tasks over the course of the year. Books may count for multiple tasks, or you can read one book per task. I don’t know how I’ll do, but I’m eager to try it out – and I’m already on my way!

How about you – any good reading challenges you’ve set for this year?

(My other personal goal is to try and get back to reading 150+ books read a year – I’ve been slacking the last couple of years….)

–Marissa

  1. Read a book about sports.
  2. Read a debut novel. (Hey Harry, Hey Matilda by Rachel Hulin)
  3. Read a book about books. (My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul)
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. (Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce)
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir. (Bleaker House by Nell Stevens)
  9. Read a book you’ve read before. (The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin)
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. (The Boy is Back by Meg Cabot)
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. (The Dry by Jane Harper)
  12. Read a fantasy novel.
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war. (Flowers for Hitler by Ilse Horacek)
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. (If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo)
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which the character of color goes on a spiritual journey.
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. (After the Flood by Alexis Hall)
  21. Read a book published by a micropress.
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (Difficult Women by Roxane Gay)
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (The Mothers by Brit Bennett)